The latest in a series of articles by lain Gregory of Caithness CAB
Have you ever driven around the Arc De Triomphe? Don’t. In the early 60’s Father decided it was time for a tour around Europe and, unwisely, decided to negotiate this infamous Parisian landmark. After being carved up for the first time and being forced to go round again he reacted mildly, simply muttering about how useful a gunfights on the bonnet would be. On the next lap he questioned the wisdom of having been involved in the liberation and, when it happened again, he passed a very politically incorrect remark along the lines of “just one Panzer is all it would take”, lowered the window, gave a Churchillian salute, and used a common Anglo-Saxon word with “ez-vous” added to the end. A couple of tons of Rover 3-Litre then thundered towards the chosen exit with tin snails surrendering in all directions.
At least he gave some thought to things before he took action and that is something we all need to do these days. Sadly, we regularly see clients at CCAB who have had a phone call from some apparently pleasant person who has managed, in a five minute phone call, to persuade the victim to hand over bank details, to “invest” their pension fund into something highly dodgy, or to transfer large – sometimes huge – sums of money to a fraudster. June is our annual anti-scams month and it goes to show you what a serious problem it is when Citizens Advice run a major campaign every year to try to protect people from criminals.
There are hundreds of permutations, but all the scams have one thing in common – the thief gains your confidence, persuades you that you must act right away, and gets you to do something that, given a few minutes to think, you would never have done. And by then it is too late. First of all, and I have said this many times, your bank or building society will never, ever, phone you wanting you to give your personal details. Neither will HMRC and neither will DVLA. Why would they? They already have your data. If you get a cold call from someone, particularly if they claim to be from your bank or so much as mention the word “pension”, then hang up and never engage or give them the chance to speak. Pension de-regulation was always going to be a scammers picnic and the Government plan to ban “cold calls” is hardly going to deter a crook calling from an untraceable number.
One of the current scams going around the County involves someone phoning to say that they are from “BT”, claiming that your line is about to be disconnected unless you pay money there and then. No, it isn’t. And whatever you do, if they leave a message asking you to call back, don’t. If you do, you’ll be routed via hugely expensive links and your phone bill will be stratospheric. Another one involves a letter from the “ FIFA Postcode Lottery”. There is no such thing, but you would be astonished how many people phone the number and get ripped off.